Human factors and ergonomics  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
See also The Human Factor (disambiguation).

Human factors is a term that covers:

  • The science of understanding the properties of human capability (Human Factors Science).
  • The application of this understanding to the design, development and deployment of systems and services (Human Factors Engineering).
  • The art of ensuring successful application of Human Factors Engineering to a programme (sometimes referred to as Human Factors Integration).It can also be called ergonomics.

The term "human factors science/research/technologies" is to a large extent synonymous with the term "ergonomics", having separate origins on either side of the Atlantic Ocean but covering the same technical areas.

In general, a human factor is a physical or cognitive property of an individual or social behavior which is specific to humans and influences functioning of technological systems as well as human-environment equilibriums.

In social interactions, the use of the term human factor stresses the social properties unique to or characteristic of humans.

Human factors involves the study of all aspects of the way humans relate to the world around them, with the aim of improving operational performance, safety, through life costs and/or adoption through improvement in the experience of the end user.

The terms human factors and ergonomics have only been widely used in recent times; the field's origin is in the design and use of aircraft during World War II to improve aviation safety. It was in reference to the psychologists and physiologists working at that time and the work that they were doing that the terms "applied psychology" and “ergonomics” were first coined. Work by Elias Porter, Ph.D. and others within the RAND Corporation after WWII extended these concepts. "As the thinking progressed, a new concept developed - that it was possible to view an organization such as an air-defense, man-machine system as a single organism and that it was possible to study the behavior of such an organism. It was the climate for a breakthrough." (Porter, Elias H. (1964). Manpower Development: The System Training Concept)

Specialisations within this field include cognitive ergonomics, usability, human computer/human machine interaction, and user experience engineering. New terms are being generated all the time. For instance, “user trial engineer” may refer to a human factors professional who specialises in user trials. Although the names change, human factors professionals share an underlying vision that through application of an understanding of human factors the design of equipment, systems and working methods will be improved, directly affecting people’s lives for the better.

Human factors practitioners come from a variety of backgrounds, though predominantly they are psychologists (engineering, cognitive, perceptual, and experimental) and physiologists. Designers (industrial, interaction, and graphic), anthropologists, technical communication scholars and computer scientists also contribute. Though some practitioners enter the field of human factors from other disciplines, both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Human Factors Engineering are available from several universities worldwide.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Human factors and ergonomics" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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